It seems that almost everyone has questions about finding the correct running shoe or what they should look for in a running shoe. I have to admit that my first tri season was completed in the wrong kind of shoe for my foot type and my build, but I never really thought much about it. It seems that we will pay a bundle for the latest gadget to take off a little time on our swim or will spend thousands on a bike, but often not give the shoes that we are wearing a second thought. So this month, I decided to go to my local running store and talk to one of the owners about proper fitting of shoes and some of the common misconceptions. I was able to spend one Saturday morning in the store conducting this interview and I learned a good bit of information about shoes and proper fitting.
My interview was conducted with Don Cassano.
BT - Tell our readers about your background and how that equips you with the experience and expertise to properly fit someone in running shoes?
Cassano - I have a Bachelors degree in human anatomy and biology and I have a Masters degree in Physical Therapy. I also work in a sports medicine clinic where we treat all types of sports-related injuries including foot-related injuries and we treat injuries to all types of athletes.
BT - Are you involved in triathlons?
Cassano - Both my wife and I are runners and we do triathlons, marathons and Ironman triathlons. We try to support the community in that way.
BT - What are some of the races that you’ve completed?
Cassano - Several local and regional sprint triathlons, The Disney Marathon, The Chicago Marathon. Both my wife and I have completed four Ironman triathlons: Ironman Florida three times and Ironman Lake Placid USA, and several half Ironmans.
BT - What prompted you to open a running store?
Cassano - We felt that there was a need in our community for individuals to have the appropriate fit or the appropriate shoe for their particular foot structure and we felt that this was a lacking component in our community.
BT - What should someone look for when they go to buy a new pair of running shoes?
Cassano - The most important thing is to look for the type of shoe that fits your foot structure best. Most shoe manufactures make, simply put, three types of running shoes to try to accommodate foot structures.
BT - What are the three types of running shoes that are manufactured?
Cassano - Neutral, Stability, and Control or Motion Control.
BT - Tell us about the purpose of the neutral shoe design.
Cassano - The neutral shoe design is for the person who is high-arched who does not pronate when they walk, who may even actually supinate, There is actually a misnomer out there that a neutral shoe design is a cushion shoe, but actually it has the same amount of cushion as a Stability and Motion Control shoe. A neutral shoe just does not control pronation.
BT - Tell us about is the Stability shoe.
Cassano - The stability shoe is a shoe that is designed for the mild to moderate pronator, which means that their arch collapses when their foot hits the ground. This shoe provides the stability to keep the arch from collapsing. There are different degrees of stability shoes some control stability a little and some control stability a lot.
BT - Tell us about the motion control shoe.
Cassano - Motion control is typically for the flat foot or Pes planus foot structure. It is typically for somebody who may have a slightly larger build and slightly larger body frame who also pronates.
Pes planus – flat foot
Pes cavus – high arch
BT - What are the three types of gait or “foot strike”?
Cassano - The first type of gait or foot strike is considered a supinator. That person is the person who, when the foot hits the ground, it lands on the lateral or outside part of the foot and their arch – heel strike to toe off – does not collapse. A pronator is someone who, when their heel hits the ground, their arch slightly collapses and then they come into toe off. There can be a mild pronator to a severe pronator. You can also be high-arched and pronate. But you can also be low-arched and not pronate. There are certain shoes out there for a low-arched person who does not pronate.
BT - What is involved in a shoe fitting?
Cassano - First a history of the person should be performed. Have they ever had any classic running injuries? Some of those injuries may or may not be related to their footwear. Secondly, you would expect that person to perform a gait analysis or a foot analysis to determine what type of foot structure you are. Thirdly, educate that person on the different types of footwear and what appropriate footwear would match their foot structure.
BT - Would a fitting also require a person to try on several different types of shoes and go out and run with some of those shoes?
Cassano - Absolutely. And all of the different companies out there make stability shoes and cushion shoes and motion control shoes, but again, you’ll want to try on that footwear and make sure that footwear is appropriate for you.
BT - How long should a person wear a pair of shoes before getting new ones?
Cassano - The common philosophy out there is that you should wear a pair of shoes from 300-500 miles. However, if you’re fairly serious about your running, you’ll definitely want to examine the break-down in the sole of the shoe – whether or not the rubber compound in the shoe has maintained its resiliency versus just going by mileage. One problem that people have is that they tend to examine the bottom of their shoes. Companies out there are using stronger technologies – for example, carbon fiber – in the bottom of their shoes to prevent sole wear. So that’s probably one of the most inaccurate ways to measure your footwear mileage.
BT - Should someone alternate between two pairs of shoes?
Cassano - That’s important if you’re running back-to-back days. If you’re giving your shoes ample time to dry out accumulated moisture, it’s okay to have one pair. If you’re running back-to-back days, you’ll definitely want to give your shoes a break.
BT - Does weight play a factor in the wear of a shoe?
Cassano - Absolutely. Some shoe manufacturers have tried to take advantage of that by building stronger compounds in their footwear for heavier persons. But absolutely the rubber compounds will break down faster with heavier weight.
BT - Is it necessary for someone having foot problems to get orthotics?
Cassano - Our feelings, and the feelings of our local podiatrists, are that you do not need an orthotic if you are in appropriate footwear. There are some rare circumstances where there is some mechanical issue that cannot be controlled by footwear, but that’s usually pretty rare. Otherwise, orthotic wear outside of your running shoes – for every day – is appropriate.
BT - Should someone be fitted differently for trail running shoes than for regular running shoes used for road racing?
Cassano - Absolutely not. In trail shoes, you’ll find both stability and neutral shoes.
Also another point would be a lightweight trainer and/or a racing flat. You’ll find both neutral and stability technology in both of those shoes. We warn someone who is a bigger, heavier-framed runner that running in a racing flat may lead to a greater risk of injury. They may want to consider just trainers and lightweight trainers. The racing flat, in my opinion, is for the runner who is an experienced, well-developed runner.
BT - Should someone have a different shoe for racing than for training?
Cassano - That’s personal preference. The reason those shoes are different – trainer, lightweight trainer and racing flat – is simply because of weight and increased performance as in how you foot strikes and leaves the ground.
BT - It seems that today a lot of runners are putting inserts in their shoes. Not orthotics, but some sort of insert purchased at a drugstore or sporting goods store. With a properly-fitted shoe, is that necessary?
Cassano - It is not necessary to replace the sock liner in your shoe with a nicer, thickened, cushioned pad. That can actually disrupt the technology of that shoe. You’ll find that in the higher-quality, more expensive running shoe versus the lower-quality, less expensive running shoes, one of the biggest differences is that you’ll find a nicer sock liner in the more expensive shoes.
BT Is there any type of foot that is just not compatible with a any shoe?
Cassano - I’m sure there are some rare circumstances, but you should always be able to fit someone with the proper shoe.
BT - If someone is in the wrong shoe or has been fitted improperly, what are some injuries that may occur?
· Plantar Facitus
· Heel pain
· Iliotibial Band Sydrome (IT Band Syndrome)
· Achilles tendonitis
· Numbness/tingling of the foot (shoe width may not be appropriate)
It may even assist in back pain and knee pain, although it won’t typically be the sole problem with those ailments.
Our thanks to Don Cassano for taking time out of a busy Saturday morning to answer a few questions about being properly fit for running shoes.
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